Located in a suburb just outside Southampton, England, Wildern is an 11-16 secondary academy with just over 1850 students, which is quite large by English standards. However, the percentage of students on Free School Meals (around 5%) is below average, as is the number of students from a minority ethnic group or whose first language is not English. The percentage of students with learning difficulties or disabilities is, at 13%, fairly typical.
Wildern School has partially implemented Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD. Students may bring their own devices in as long as the teacher and head of department concerned have agreed that phones and other devices would be useful in a particular lesson.
The school finds BYOD an attractive proposition because of its inherent flexibility and, of course, personalisation. But what really stands out about Wildern is the prime instigators of this development: the students.
The student school improvement group put the suggestion to the senior leadership team, whose response was, in a nutshell, to raise a collective eyebrow. Nothing daunted, the students set about finding out what the underlying objections or concerns were, surveyed the student body to look at current provision, then ran trials with certain devices. They then presented to SLT on why it should allow them to be used in lesson. And, with SLT approval, they did presentations to staff, governors and parents to get their support.
The Acceptable Use Policy for BYOD was drawn up by the students themselves, and is a masterpiece. Succinct and in plain language, it lays out the rules in less than a side of A4.
The BYOD policy has been supported by the establishment of a Genius Bar, where teachers and students can borrow additional devices, and the Staff ICT School Improvement Group which was also involved in trials of certain tools, and provides the lead in each department for use of technology in lesson, and has also been making short films about how they are using the devices to enhance learning. Last but certainly not least, the IT team was involved in the process, making sure the school’s infrastructure was up to supporting the needs of the school.
The big challenges are, as one might expect, equality of access, consistency of learning experience, staff training and confidence. But the school has begun to meet those challenges head-on, and looks like succeeding.
Dalton has a word of advice to any other school thinking about going down the BYOD road:
“Plan, test. Don't get sucked into large leasing schemes with a shiny thing that seems like a good idea this week but might be outdone by something better in a year’s time.”
The success so far of Wildern’s piecemeal development would seem to bear that out.
Further details of the school and its work may be found at: http://www.tdalton.co.uk/2011/10/bringing-our-own-devices/